Keeping up with payment system news, even that part of it restricted to North America, is more than a full-time job. So much has happened recently, though, that it's time for a survey of recent highlights:
Big money continues to seek a foothold in payment systems:
- Industry behemoth Oracle added an extension named "Oracle Retail Mobile POS" to enable large retailers who use Oracle Retail Stores Solution to add mobile point-of-sale (POS). Oracle's tool is based on VeriFone's PAYware Mobile Enterprise.
- Stripe will deploy the couple of rounds of funding it reaped in 2012 to move its developer-friendly e-commerce system outside its US base. The latter article, well-placed in The Atlantic, attributes to Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison the aim "... to bring Stripe to every country on earth."
- Groupon announced GrouponPayments as "the lowest cost option for Groupon merchants to accept credit cards."
- At least two Austin-based venture-backed startups are targeting advanced payment systems for hospitality companies: SubtleData "connects apps to Point of Sale systems" with an emphasis on mobile POS (m-POS) for restaurants and bars; and TabbedOut supplies its software development kit to developers of branded mobile applications for bar and restaurant patrons.
- Discover reached separate agreements with PayPal and Google that appear to make promising use of Discover's extensive "merchant footprint", the strong capitalization and name recognition of all three companies, and the technical potential of PayPal and Google.
- Not only did PayPal/Square/... competitor Braintree acquire Venmo a few weeks ago, but the co-founder of Venmo gave a recent interview where he again emphasized the way ease-of-use promotes consumers' trust in applications over institutions.
While I'm generally skeptical of the ability of large organizations to react swiftly to external events, at least a few of these milestones took part of their shape from disappointments with near-field communications (NFC). Apple chose not to include NFC in the iPhone 5; Wired found a silver lining in this for m-commerce. Meanwhile, m-commerce consortium Isis delayed for a second time launch of its first pilot program.
Race into m-commerce
Also accelerating the race into m-commerce is recognition that, while m-payments present security challenges, it's possible that leading-edge online or mobile payments are already more secure than the alternatives. On one hand, "... smartphones and tables are not secure ...", in the unequivocal judgment of the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Council, and are therefore ineligible for inclusion in the Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). On the other, such major players asMasterCard are moving forward without m-POS certification, and the PCI Security Standards Council itself just issued guidelines for developers of m-payment applications, enumerated as 18 objectives.
Not-entirely-coincidentally, this month Bank of America received a patent for a "contactless automated teller machine" (ATM) for which it applied over a year ago.
What conclusions can we reasonably reach from all this activity? In the near future, many--most?--consumers will reach for their mobiles as often as their wallets when it's time to pay. Clearance will be swifter and less expensive than it is now. And, along with payment itself, a mountain of digitized customer data has the potential to follow every sale.